"But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:27-31
We walked the Slave Trail in Richmond, Virginia yesterday mostly in silence. First we walked upstream, single file holding the hand of the person in front of us and the person in back of us. It was hard, slow and I became conscious of how much I had to look down to keep from falling, of all the sounds around me, of the slow process of taking away all that makes us human, of so many tears. We then walked it single file, again in silence, holding the shoulders of the person in front of us. The first walk was to remember the enslaved African people who had survived the horror of the Atlantic crossing, only to be put on another boat and sent upriver to the abyss. The second walk was to remember all those who having found a common language, created families and relationships under the unspeakable practices of slavery were separated from the people who sustained them and sent downriver in a horrifying act of betrayal by their white owners. We walked in cloudy daylight. All the enslaved people who made this walk did so at night.
Listening to our guide Pastor Sylvester "Tee" Turner who is the Director of Reconciliation Programs for Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities speak about this experience in the aftermath of Tuesday's elections, I write urging you to be part of three important ministries that only a community of faith such as Emmanuel Church, along with many other churches can do. As a community that takes hospitality seriously we have profound responsibilities to all whom we welcome. These are:
To participate in reconciliation (borrowing from the mission statement of Hope in the Cities) by "building trust in the heart of community" through prayer for all elected leaders, prayer for those with whom we do not agree, prayer for those who are fearful as a result of this election, through discerning listening to one another and all whom we encounter; through clearly and lovingly standing for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ who modeled what it is to do to others what you would have them do to you.
To open our hearts fully to the conversation in this community and this diocese and the Episcopal Church about racism. This is the most important conversation we are having as a community right now. It affects all that we do and most importantly who we are. It happens every other week after the 10:30 am service in the Brent Room. Go to the workshop, Seeing the Face of God in Each Other, sponsored by the Diocese of Maryland. Read the many important books and articles being written that address the enduring legacy of racism in those of us who are white and who are privileged. Let our hearts be changed to see the work of Christ in us and through us. Part of the deep chasm that divides us has to do with our persistent unwillingness as white people to climb into this truth and see it for what it is, as the Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas so eloquently stated at the Trail of Souls event.
To act as Christ shows us by upholding God's justice, ensuring that the dignity and freedom is respected and upheld of all African Americans, and others who are part of the African diaspora, of all Latinos, all immigrants and refugees, all people of other faith traditions, all people who are LGBTQ, all people who are "aliens" fleeing the violence of poverty and war in their countries; all who speak other languages. It is time to steel ourselves to do God's justice. Do not be afraid. Courage and perseverance are the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. They are given every day. To use them is what it is to be the church and to love God.